Chapter 5: Chain of Memories

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Written by: Kanemaki Tomoco
Original Plan: Nomura Tetsuya and Nojima Kazushige
Illustration: Amano Shiro
Translations: Goldpanner
Copyrighted by Disney, Square Enix and Touchstone Pictures. No profits are gained from these unofficial fan translations.

xxx

It’s been 26 days since I joined the Organisation.

Roxas woke up, like always, and headed for the lobby, like always.

But, unlike always, the atmosphere in the lobby was different.

“So you don’t understand the situation?” Xaldin folded his arms, his normally stern expression now even more severe.

“I only just heard too. What the heck is happening? It’d suck if it was true.” Demyx’s expression also looked darker than usual.

I’m getting… a really bad feeling about this.

“Did something happen?” Roxas asked Xigbar, who was standing next to Saïx.

“Hm? Yeah—one of the members who went to Castle Oblivion got annihilated, as they say.”

“Annihilated…?”

It was an unfamiliar word.

I know the meaning of the word. To disappear and go away.

But, what does that mean—?

I’m sure Axel went to Castle Oblivion.

Axel, annihilated…?

“Roxas, you have a mission. You’re going with Xigbar to a new world—Agrabah.”

At the sudden order, Roxas looked up in surprise. The mission had been issued by—Saïx, of course. Saïx’s atmosphere was no different to always.

“…they were saying something happened at Castle Oblivion, but…” Roxas asked, head down.

“It’s got nothing to do with you,” stated Saïx, coldly.

“…what about Axel?” Roxas pressed, plucking up the courage, but all Saïx did was narrow his eyes a little. However, Roxas didn’t notice.

“…well… maybe he was annihilated.”

“…uh…”

His words dried up.

That’s—

“From today, you will also be using the shop. You can purchase goods from that moogle over there with the munny you get during missions.”

“…”

“Are you listening to me?”

“Uh… yeah…”

Looking in the direction Saïx was pointing, a creature wearing the same coat as the Organisation—a moogle—was floating with a ‘flap –flap’.

“Once you’ve arranged your equipment from the shop, hurry and leave.”

“…Understood.”

Roxas went to speak to the moogle. “Thanks for coming, kupo. What do they call you, kupo?”

“Roxas… and you?” he answered, looking at the moogle. A big red nose in a white face—is this moogle a Nobody, too?

Upon hearing Roxas’ question the moogle paused for a moment, and then answered, “there’s no meaning in such a thing, kupo.”

“Huh…?”

“You here to shop, kupo? Take your time, kupo.”

“Ah, yeah…”

At the moogle’s shop, there were various things that until now could only have been obtained by defeating heartless or from treasure chests.

Purchasing a few items, Roxas arranged them.

“Haven’t forgotten anything, kupo?”

“Um……”

Even so, annihilation is…

“Let’s go, Roxas,” called Xigbar, who had been waiting the whole time for Roxas to finish his exchange with the moogle. “Hurry up.”

“…yeah…”

Roxas stepped into a dark corridor, as if being pushed in the back by Xigbar.

xxx

On the other side of the darkness was a town bathed in strong sunlight, and surrounded by desert—Agrabah.

Today’s mission is to investigate this new world.

“This world is sweltering.”Xigbar surveyed the area, then turned back to Roxas, coming after him. “Let’s finish investigating quick, and RTC.”

Even when pressed, Roxas was kind of zoned out.

“What’s up? Is this new world really that much of a novelty?”

“They said that someone who went to Castle Oblivion was annihilated…” mumbled Roxas, shaking his head.

“Haha—that’s the thing that’s got you like this?”

Looking down, Roxas scuffed his foot. The dry earth skittered. “Thing…?”

“Let’s get going.”

“…Was everyone annihilated?” said Roxas, head still down, and Xigbar shrugged exaggeratedly.

“Weeeell…. We’ll know the details when we’ve RTC’d, as they say. Let’s go, kiddo.”

At those words, Roxas finally got moving, and began the investigation.

xxx

The city of Agrabah seemed to have been disturbed by a sandstorm, and the town was right in the middle of repair work, under their ruler.

When the investigation had come to a conclusion, and Roxas looked up at Xigbar. “…What do we do now? Do we check out the inside of the palace, too?”

“Nah, we’ve done enough for today. We managed to identify the ruler, so.” Xigbar answered, casting a glance at Roxas. He still looked depressed, as always.

“Well then, can we go back to the castle now?”

“Heh heh heh… you just wanna hurry up and go home, don’t you. That’s fine—let’s RTC.” Xigbar started walking, and Roxas followed after him.

A Heartless sprang at Xigbar’s back. But, Xigbar spun around, and fired his weapons, the Arrowguns. In one hit, the Heartless faded away into the air.

“All right. Now let’s return for real, kiddo.”

However, Roxas was staring at the place where the Heartless has disappeared.

Xigbar shrugged, as if to say, ‘well?’ “Didn’t you wanna hurry up and go back?”

“…Hey, what happens to Heartless after they disappear?”

“They leave a heart. And it is gathered into the great Kingdom Hearts, as they say,” answered Xigbar, looking right at Roxas.

“Well, what about Nobodies, then? We don’t have hearts…”

“Nothing is left behind. Cause we don’t really exist in the first place, you know.”

“And the member who got annihilated at Castle Oblivion?”

“Nothing’s left.”

Roxas looked down.

“If they disappear, does that mean we won’t see them again?”

“Yep.”

Roxas clenched his fists.

Maybe I can’t see Axel again…

“Let’s go back.”

“Huh? Yeah…”

And just as he went to go with Xigbar—

The world is swaying.

I can’t hear a thing.

The ground is rushing up.

—His consciousness was engulfed by darkness.

xxx

Who are you?

xxx

He could hear a girl’s voice coming from somewhere.

Are you…. Xion…? Or….

Roxas blacked out.

xxx

In a corner of a room with a crystal ball, Naminé sat in a chair, looking down. In her hands was a large sketchbook—and, a blue ocean and a little island had been drawn on the uppermost page.

She was rewriting Sora’s memories into something more ‘favourable’.

The memories relating to Kairi had vanished, and the fragments of memories were starting to scatter. And so, memories of Naminé were planted in order to fill the space where Kairi had disappeared.

“Naminé,” Axel called. Axel and Naminé were the only ones in the room.

“You’re all he has, now.”

Naminé didn’t stir.

The crystal ball in the centre of the room was showing Sora, alone on that island.

“You’re the only one who can save him.”

Naminé looked up.

“Shall I say it one more time? You’re the only one who can save him.”

“But… it’s too late.” Naminé hung her head once more.

But, Axel didn’t think so. Here and now, it’s necessary—to liberate Naminé from under Marluxia’s control. And then, Marluxia will lose his power over the castle in one go. It isn’t necessary for ‘traitors’ to have any extra power.

“It’s too early to decide that… Hey, Naminé. Have you noticed? Marluxia isn’t here right now.”

“What do you…”

“I mean, there’s no one here to stop you.”

Naminé got to her feet at last.

“Don’t screw it up.”

Naminé gave a slight nod, and rushed out of the room.

Naminé’s probably heading for—Sora. That island, Destiny Islands.

All alone in the room, Axel smiled.

“It finally got interesting. She’s fighting against her own nature.”

Axel stepped up to the crystal ball, and looked at Sora, displayed there.

Maybe—Sora’s annihilation would lead to Roxas’. I want to avoid that, if I can. I wasn’t ordered to destroy Sora in the first place. There’s no way of knowing what the other members of the Organisation have been told, though.

“Well then… Sora, Naminé, Riku, Marluxia, Larxene! This clash better be one hell of a show; I wanna enjoy this, okay?”
No one was there to hear him.

xxx

On top of his bed, Roxas was breathing peacefully as he slept. Two shadows entered the empty room. One was Xemnas—and one was Saïx.

“It definitely appears to be Naminé’s influence,” Saïx reported, staring at Roxas’ sleeping face. Xemnas was doing the same thing beside him.

What on earth is happening in Castle Oblivion…? Apart from that concerning the annihilation, no contact has been made. It’s possible that the information is being cut off deliberately. All I can do is trust in Axel’s actions.

“Can he awaken?”

“I have received information that if all the Hero’s memories are peeled away, Roxas will come back to us,” Saïx answered.

“So everything depends on Castle Oblivion,” Xemnas said, as if to himself, and looked at Roxas again.

“Xion has become able to use the Keyblade as planned, and so for now, we can make Xion perform heart collection,” Saïx informed, in a detached manner.

If Xion can use the Keyblade, it doesn’t matter if Roxas sleeps.

Silence flowed between them.

When, by and by, Saïx went to leave the room, Xemnas opened his mouth again. “And, how fares the search for the room?”

That’s an important question relating to the very existence of Castle Oblivion. However, as always, we haven’t been able to find the room.

“Apparently, things aren’t progressing over there in the manner we thought they would,” answered Saïx, and walked at a leisurely pace out of Roxas’ room.

And so, Xemnas was the only one left there.

He gazed at Roxas’ sleeping face.

“So you’re still asleep…”

There was no one there to hear Xemnas’ murmured words but the sleeping Roxas.

xxx

I’ve slipped inside Sora’s memories—into Destiny Islands. This created world should have a ‘me’ made from memories in it somewhere, too.

Naminé ran along the stormy beach.

She could see Sora, fighting a huge Heartless.

Naminé hurried towards a small island.

“Naminé…” called Sora, who had defeated the Heartless, and the illusion Naminé turned around.

An illusion—a fake Naminé being projected by the real one.

“Sora… you came for me.”

The storm raging around the island died down.

“I finally… finally get to meet you…” said Sora, unbearably happy. But, the illusion shook her head slightly. “I, I wanted to meet you, I fought my way here.”

“Yeah… me too…”

I wanted to meet you, too.

Naminé smiled, sadly.

Naminé’s power—moved.

“But I, I made a mistake. I wanted to meet you, but, it was a mistake like this.” Naminé turned her back on Sora, and looked out at the ocean.

The ocean, which had been storming until just now, was hideously quiet, and not even the sound of waves could be heard.

Nothing could be heard.

xxx

Waking up was just like always.

On top of my bed, in my own room.

But I feel even hazier than I usually do.

Xion got out of bed, and looked in the mirror in the middle of the room.

It’s the same me as always in there.

Getting ready, she went to the lobby, to find Saïx and Xigbar standing there.

I don’t see Roxas.

“…Where’s Roxas?” she asked Saïx.

“It’s got nothing to do with you.”

I thought he’d say that.

Saïx never answers my questions for me.

Then, Xigbar poked his face in.

“As cold to Poppet as always, aren’t you—Saïx.” Saïx ignored him.

Xigbar is always coming to talk to me. He talks to me a lot more than Saïx, so I like him.

“Roxas fainted and now he’s sleeping it off, as they say—”

“Huh?”

Surprised, her words wouldn’t come out.

Roxas fainted…?

“You worried?” Xion nodded at Xigbar. “Heh heh, you’re so cute, Poppet. I can take you to see him after.”

“Okay…”

Xigbar patted Xion on the head.

Even so, I wonder why Xigbar calls me Poppet.

“You can’t just do as you—well, I don’t mind if you go see him, but complete your mission first.”

Saïx didn’t stop me, which is rare.

“What should we do today?”

“The same as yesterday, investigation. But, in a different world,” answered Saïx, and told them the place.

“…Got it,” Xion nodded, and stepped into the darkness that opened up beside her.

xxx

The sea and sky were both jet black.

The world—Destiny Islands—was covered by darkness.

This darkness was straight out of Sora’s memory of the last time he had seen the island.

“Look, weren’t you the one who gave this to me!” Sora yelled at Naminé, pulling out the keepsake made of paopu fruit.

That’s a fake keepsake made for the sake of fake memories.

“That’s right. I gave that to you.” Naminé smiled gently, while looking out at the ocean.

But this was the illusion Naminé.

“No, Sora! Don’t believe me!”

One more Naminé, this time the real one, appeared at last beside Sora.

Yes—this is a vague world from inside his memories. In can be changed in any way.

The other Naminé faded away.

“Hey, Sora. Think back, one more time. Your most important person. That faintly shining fragment of memory that slipped into the deepest part of your chest; try calling it with your heart. No matter how far away that light is, your heart’s voice will surely reach.”

At Naminé’s pleading voice, Sora stared long and hard at the keepsake in the palm of his hand.

“My important person?” He kept staring at the keepsake. “That’s easy. It’s Na—” Sora went to say, and that instant, the keepsake glittered. Then, the yellow star-shaped keepsake made from Paopu fruit changed into something made of five sea shells joined together.

“Sora!” someone called, and—the world, Destiny Islands, was wrapped in light.

“Just now…”

Sora looked around.

The ocean was blue, as always, and the sky was serene.

And, no one was on the beach.

All that could be heard was the sound of waves.

“Just now… who was that? I can’t remember her, but… she felt so familiar…”

Sora started walking along the sand.

xxx

Xion walked alone along the beach. There was a little island, surrounded by a very pretty blue ocean.

That’s right—this world is called Destiny Islands.

The sand crunched under her feet as she walked. And, the sound of waves could be heard, constantly.

“…What a pretty place,” Xion murmured, and looked down at her feet. There was a shell there. She gently picked it up, and put it in her pocket.

Voices could be heard from afar, and Xion separated herself from the shoreline, rushing to hide in the shadow of a rock.

It was a basic rule of the Organisation that they must not be discovered by the inhabitants of the worlds.

“Hurry up~!”

A lone boy charged along the beach.

“Waaait, Tidus!”

“I don’t wait just cause I’m told to!”

Behind him, a girl whose outwards-curling hair waved in the wind and one more slightly older-looking boy followed after.

The boy called Tidus came to a sudden halt.

“Ooow~! Don’t just stop all of a sudden!”

“Over there…”

Over where the boy was pointing, at the tip of the small island, someone was sitting. It was a girl with red hair.

“Kairi’s pretty blue…” said the girl, worriedly.

“She’ll cheer up soon,” replied the older boy, brightly.

Xion, so as not to be noticed, followed them quietly.

xxx

Castle Oblivion—Floor 12.

Sora, who had returned from Destiny Islands, was fighting the Replica.

The Replica swung his blade up over Sora.

“Riku, no!” Naminé shouted.

Ignoring Naminé, the Replica hit Sora. “Vanish, you fake!”

“Stop it!” Naminé yelled, and that instant, everything was wrapped in a blinding light.

“—ah…”

The Replica swayed dizzily, and fell to the floor.

“Riku!” Sora ran to the Replica, and helped him up. But, the Replica’s eyes were still open, unseeing.

“Did you do this, Naminé? What did you do to Riku!” Sora said, angrily, but all Naminé did was shake her head slightly.

But—there wasn’t any other way.

“In short, she broke his heart,” broke in the cruel voice of a woman, and Sora and Naminé turned around.

Larxene was standing there.

“So—so, what’s happened to Riku!” Sora asked Larxene, gently laying the Replica down on the floor.

Sora still believes undoubtingly that the Replica is his best friend, Riku.

“Ahaha! Your panicking is so funny~! If it’s Riku you’re after, there’s nothing for you to worry about. He wasn’t here from the start, you know.”

“What do you mean?” Sora gripped the Keyblade, and Larxene tittered.

“You want me to give it away? You want me to? What to do~”

“Don’t mess around!” Unable to take it any longer, Sora raised his Keyblade threateningly.

“Okay, I’ll give it away. Since you’ll be in so much more pain once you know the truth, I’ll tell you.” Larxene took one step towards Sora, and looked him in the face. “That thing lying over there is nothing but a toy that Vexen cooked up… a doll. Hey, it’s enough to make you laugh, isn’t it? He called you a fake, but he was much faker.”

“This Riku is a fake!?”

“Body, heart and memories; all fake. He was created, so it’s not like he’d have a past or anything. And so, its memories of being with Naminé were all planted. In other words, his passionate protection of her was born from nothing but lies.”

Larxene grinned and turned to Naminé.

xxx

Roxas was sleeping on his bed.

Xion quietly put the shell she had collected by his pillow.

“Roxas… today I went to the beach.”

There was still only one shell next to his pillow.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

Xion left Roxas’ room.

xxx

Larxene had been defeated and annihilated by Sora. And then Sora had headed for the 13th floor, in order to defeat Marluxia. Naminé sat beside the Replica, who lay on the floor, and gently stroked his hair.

Poor doll had his memories rewritten so many times, used by the Organisation.

“Naminé.”

Naminé looked up in surprise, and turned her eyes towards where the voice had come from.

“…Marluxia…”

Standing there was the King of the castle—Marluxia.

“Come, Naminé.” He grabbed Naminé’s arm and hoisted her to her feet.

“But… the Replica…”

“That doll doesn’t matter,” said Marluxia, giving the fallen Replica a cold glance, and then, pulling on Naminé’s arm forcefully, he started walking.

xxx

And so, Naminé was taken to—floor 12.

“How are you? Marluxia.”

There, in front of Naminé and Marluxia, Axel had appeared.

“How dare you show yourself in front of me, traitor!” Marluxia let go of Naminé’s arm, and glared at Axel.

“Traitor? Whatever do you mean?” replied Axel, calmly.

“Why did you let Naminé go! Without your meddling, the Keyblade Hero would have become our servant!” Marluxia’s body trembled with rage.

The rage of a heartless Nobody.

I’ve been angry, before. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. By tracing those memories, I repeat those actions, in response to the situation.

“Oh yeah, your plan. Replace Sora’s memories one by one using Naminé’s power, until he’s wrapped around her little finger. And then, manipulating Sora through Naminé, take over the Organisation with Larxene. No? Cause that would make you the traitor, Marluxia.”

“But you too, with Vexen!”

“Yeah, I destroyed him. What of it? All I did was dispose of something useless to the Organisation. And I needed to make you guys trust me,” Axel grinned.

“So you were acting to find evidence on our conspiracy, right from the start… is that it?” said Marluxia, resigning himself to it.

“Moving on—you gave that order before, didn’t you. To ‘dispose of the traitors’.” Axel spread his arms. Chakrams appeared in his hands. “So let me do so. Marluxia.”

“Humph—you should have obeyed me meekly,” Marluxia snorted.

“Larxene paid for her treason with annihilation. You will too. I’ll end your existence, in the name of the Organisation.”

“Just see if you can!” shouted Marluxia, pulling Naminé back by the arm.

“What are you trying to do? Are you thinking to use Naminé as a shield? That little girl doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ll just destroy her along with you. Get ready, Marluxia!” fired Axel, readying his chakrams.

Peculiar or not, she’s got nothing to do with me, or the Organisation… I don’t think.

It’s fine to destroy things that are in the way.

“Heh—really? Did you hear that, Sora!”

Sora had rushed into the room.

“Hm?”

Sora readied his Keyblade, and Axel lowered his arms.

“Axel is going to destroy Naminé along with me! So, defeat Axel!” Marluxia shouted.

“—Axel.”

Well, thought Axel.

Facing Sora is like having Roxas right in front of me, and it doesn’t feel all that good. The memory of a feeling that didn’t come at all when I faced Marluxia, Larxene or Vexen.

Since I became a Nobody, I haven’t cared like this about anyone who isn’t connected to memories of my past.

Why? Why do I care about Roxas—and Sora—like this?

I don’t expect to hesitate about annihilating someone, even if I’m interested in them.

Because, I’m a Nobody, without a heart.

But—I don’t want to do it.

“What’s with you, Sora. Have you already turned into Marluxia’s puppet?”

“No. As soon as I’ve defeated you, he’s next!”

“Huh… hey, Sora.” Axel stared at Sora.

I can’t destroy Sora here. All I can do is lose on purpose. If I do that, I’d better lose as exaggeratedly as possible.

“You and I have some slight destiny. I’d rather not fight you, but… it wouldn’t be very cool of me to run away now, would it!”

Axel leapt.

xxx

Castle Oblivion—the basement.

In a gloomy room, Zexion folded his arms, lost in thought.

“First Vexen, and now even Lexeaus has been wiped out… what will become of the Organisation…”

Lexeaus had just been defeated by Riku.

Then, the air in the room wavered. “On top of that, Naminé turned traitor, and now Larxene’s been destroyed by Sora. Wonder who’s next,” Axel answered Zexion, who had meant to be speaking to himself, and showed himself.

Zexion frowned in displeasure. “…You, perhaps,” he said, without even turning around.

“Me? Nah.”

From the beginning, Zexion had never trusted Axel. No, other than the born-and-bred members of the Organisation—other than those members whom I once spent time with in those research facilities, I don’t trust anyone.

Even amongst ourselves, the man called Saïx wormed his way deep in Lord Xemnas’s bosom without our noticing it. And I especially don’t trust Axel, who is close to that Saïx.

“Just before, I pretended to lose to Sora and escaped. I’m not going to fight him again for a while. Marluxia’s gonna be the next one to fall.”

“Of course Sora can’t lose to Marluxia, since he beat you. Is that what you mean?”

Marluxia was given control over this castle, even though he’s only Number 11. A low number doesn’t mean low strength, but if you look from Number 8, Axel’s point of view, he must be thinking that Marluxia is ranked below him. But in practice, Marluxia is stronger in battle than Axel. Axel looks down on him only because his number is later.

“It means that Marluxia, who planned to use Sora to rebel against the Organisation, will be destroyed by Sora’s hand.”

“So then—there’s no reason for us to have Riku in our hands anymore.” Zexion finally looked at Axel.

The thin smile playing on Axel’s lips was unpleasant. “Do you mean you’ll dispose of him? You planning to take Riku on directly, when he defeated Lexeaus?”

“I do things differently,” replied Zexion, and vanished.

“Well then—how do I take care of things from now, I wonder… and, my butt really hurts…”

Rubbing the place that had been hurt during his battle with Sora, Axel also vanished once more.

xxx

Sora, who had defeated Marluxia, and Naminé met smiling. The Replica watched them, emptily.

“Are you okay, Riku?”

The Replica’s head popped up at the sound of Sora’s worried voice. “I’m not Riku,” he replied, slowly. “I’m a fake. I don’t remember when, or where, or why I was born. All I have left is you and Naminé—but those memories are only lies, too.” The Replica shook his head quietly.

“Hey Naminé, isn’t there a way to put Riku’s memories back to normal?” Goofy asked, but Naminé shook her head quietly.

“I don’t care. It’s okay.” He turned his back on Sora and the others, and began to walk away. I don’t know where I should go. But, I want to go somewhere.

“Wait!” The Replica stopped moving at Sora’s voice. “Whether you’re a fake or whatever, it doesn’t matter anymore! You’re here now, you’re not anyone else, and you have your very own heart. Your memories belong to you and you only, so treasure them!”

My very own heart—

Does a created doll like me really have a heart, I wonder.

“Sora, you’re so kind. Your feelings are so real, that even a fake like me can understand them—that’s enough for me.”

“Riku!” Sora yelled, with all his might, but the Replica didn’t answer, and broke into a run, as if trying to escape from that kindly place.

xxx

It was the tenth day since Roxas had gone to sleep.

Xion woke slowly, and had a good stretch.

Then she took off her coat, and put on a new one. She shoved the dirtied coat in the proper basket in a corner of her room, to find that a clean coat had appeared hanging in her closet without her noticing.

The lower dusks clean my room for me.

I think they probably wash my clothes, and change my sheets too.

Then she washed her face, and looked in the mirror.

It’s the same me as always in the mirror.

I don’t change.

I’ll leave my room, and head for the lobby. Depending on when I go out, there are people I meet and people I don’t.

Today, there’s no one here but Saïx and Xigbar.

“Today, you have investigation with Xigbar.”

“Got it.”

Once I’ve received Saïx’s orders, Xigbar calls out to me right away, as if he was waiting for me.

“Let’s go, Poppet.”

Well, it’s rare that I go out with others. This is the first time I’ll go on a mission with someone other than Roxas. I mostly just go on my own.

I want to revisit the world they made me go to earlier—Destiny Islands. I can collect sea shells there. Though, even when I visit other worlds, I can collect shells on my way back.

The sunset that I watched from the edge of that island is a lot like the one I watch from the clock tower in Twilight Town; it’s very pretty.

I don’t really know why I decided to give Roxas sea shells. But I felt like it was something I had to do, so I collected them.

Because the shells become a keepsake. So that even if we’re separated, we can meet again—

But, I wonder how I knew shells were keepsakes. Nobodies are beings that aren’t allowed to exist—I don’t really know much more than that.

I don’t know, but I know about the worlds.

I don’t remember a thing, but I know things. For example, the way to fight, and use magic. Of course, I have been taught many things. But, even though I was taught, I wonder why it felt like I already knew.

That’s probably what a ‘memory’ is.

A memory—what on earth is a memory, anyway?

I feel like if Roxas was here, we could talk about it properly. There’s no one else I could talk about that kind of stuff with.

“…How is Roxas?”

“Still sleeping. He might not wake up.”

At Saïx’s reply, I stop knowing what to say.

“You go to see how he is every day, don’t you? You’re so kind, Poppet.”

I look up at Xigbar’s words; I didn’t realise it could be seen like that.

“Well, you can go see him until you’re satisfied. Perhaps he’ll just wake up all of a sudden.”

Those words give me an unpleasant feeling, too. So far, Saïx hasn’t even once acknowledged my actions.

“Let’s hurry up and go.”

“…Yeah.”

Xion stepped into the darkness that Xigbar opened.

On the other side of that darkness was blue ocean.

xxx

Riku stood on the beach. This was inside the castle—not the real Destiny Islands.

A world made from my memories—the childhood home I threw away.

Riku crossed the beach, and sprinted to the same old pier.

Kairi was standing there.

“Hey, Kairi—you—”

The moment Riku called out, Kairi vanished, turning into Zexion.

“You really should have known that it would turn out like this,” Zexion began to intone quietly. “Before arriving here, you travelled through many worlds made from your memories. But, you should have met nothing but beings of darkness. In your heart, nothing remains but dark memories. The memories of your childhood home—have vanished.”

“Liar!” Riku shouted. “I remember everyone from the islands! Tidus, and Selphie, and Wakka! Kairi! Sora! Everyone—my… my… important friends…” He clenched his fists, looking down.

“And who was the one who threw those friends away? Have you forgotten your own actions? You shattered your own childhood home!” Zexion criticised, and the surroundings were wrapped in darkness, thunder crashing. Rain began to pelt down, soaking Riku.

xxx

“Riku’s gone, isn’t he…” said Goofy, when Sora had returned to Naminé, not having been able to chase down the Replica.

“…Yeah,” said Sora, giving a small, lonely nod, and he looked at Naminé.

“…Can you bring back our memories?” Donald asked her.

“Yes… just because you can’t remember, it doesn’t mean the memories have disappeared.”

“What do you mean?” Goofy shrugged.

“Once you remember one thing about your past, the other memories will come back with it, and finally you’ll remember many things, right? Memories are connected. Many fragments of memory are joined together in a chain, and they bind people’s hearts. My power is not to destroy memories, but to take apart the links in the chain, and reconnect them, so—no one’s memories have been destroyed.”

Jiminy popped out of Sora’s pocked with a ‘pyon.’ “Then you can bring them back, can’t you.”

“But to do that, I have to take apart the links I reconnected. And then I have to gather the fragments of memory scattered deep in your hearts, and put the chain of memories back the way it was. I think it’ll take a long time. But, it’ll probably go well.”

Naminé looked down for a moment—and then she showed them her smile.

xxx

When Axel tempted, “Hey, wouldn’t you like to become the real thing?” the Replica gave a clear nod.

I don’t know whether the Replica project that Vexen designed was a success or a failure. But, I think this Replica still has some use left in him. He copies power according to memories.

If so, then if he could also copy other people’s memories, there’s no reason why he couldn’t get new power. I think he can copy human’s—no, even Nobodies skills.

Because special Nobodies—the members of the Organisation—are controlled by the memories of our time as humans.

“It’s about time he’ll be coming back, I think?” said Axel, but the Replica didn’t show any reaction. “Hey, do you know how it is you take other people’s powers?”

“…I defeat them, and eat up their power, or so Vexen told me.”

“Eat up… hm…”

I don’t understand what kind of action that entails, thought Axel, and then the air in the room quivered.

Just as I thought—it’s Zexion, who’s been battered by Riku.

Zexion collapsed, and beat the ground with his fists. “What… what is with that guy! Until now, no one has ever taken in that much darkness! It shouldn’t be po…”

This is the first time I’ve ever seen Zexion this shaken. But this’ll probably be the last time, anyway.

Zexion finally noticed the Replica in front of him.

“Wha—Riku!?” Zexion, still on his knees, shrank back as if in fright.

“Hey, senior.” Axel poked his face out from behind the Replica.

“O-oh. That’s the Replica that Vexen made, isn’t it. I see, perhaps he can defeat Riku if they face each other… Axel?” said Zexion, sounding clingy, and the Replica looked down at him.

“Hey, Riku—you know all too well how fake you are, don’t you. Do you wanna be the real thing?”

“Yeah.” The Replica nodded quietly.

“Well then, it’s simple. You should get yourself some power that the real Riku doesn’t have. If you do that, you can be something real—not Riku, not a fake of anything, but a new existence,” Axel persuaded, smiling.

“Axel! What are you saying!” Zexion shrank back even further. Still sitting.

“Look, there’s some perfect ‘feed’ right over there,” said Axel, nodding his chin towards Zexion.

“What kind of idiotic thing are you…”

“My bad, Zexion. Watching over Sora and Riku looks a lot more fun than helping you.”

“Stay… stay back!” appealed Zexion, moving back even more, and the Replica brought his blade down on him.

In order for Sora—no, for Roxas to live, and also for us to accomplish our own goal, Zexion is in the way. And, if it’s for the sake of our own goal, we already decided what to do, that time.

Not only Zexion. Marluxia, and even this Replica here are nothing but pawns. The day will probably come when I have to choose between our own goal, and this inexplicable thing I have for Roxas now.

“Stop—!”

Zexion’s scream disappeared, swallowed by darkness.

xxx

Castle Oblivion—13th floor.

Sora, Donald and Goofy were each climbing into their own flower bud-shaped pods.

The pods were not devices for restoring their memories. They were only devices for sleep. However, if they didn’t sleep, their memories couldn’t be joined back together.

“We started out on lies, but I’m really glad that I could meet you,” said Naminé, and Sora turned, slowly. He smiled.

“Yeah, me too. When I got to meet you, and when I remembered your name, I was really happy. The way I felt at those times wasn’t a lie,” Sora said.

Even though they’re feelings made from false memories, they became real feelings. But, of course, memories that were built must be destroyed.

I must disappear from Sora’s memories.

Naminé smiled, and said, “Goodbye.”

Goodbye—you won’t remember me anymore.

“It’s not goodbye! When I wake up, we’ll meet again. And so next time, we can be not false, but real proper friends. Let’s promise, Naminé.”

Naminé shook her head. “You’ll forget that promise, too.”

That’s what it means to rewrite memories.

“Even if the chains of memories come undone, the fragments of memory don’t disappear. The memory of that promise will definitely stay somewhere in my heart. That’s what I think.”

I want to believe Sora’s words—that’s what I think.

Sora definitely wouldn’t forget me. I feel like I can believe that.

My chest hurts.

“…So, will we promise?”

“Yeah, it’s a promise.” Sora put out his little finger. Naminé entwined it with her own. “I promise, Sora.”

“I promise.”

And then, Sora casually went into the pod.

A promise—even if the memory is gone, the promise will remain. That’s definitely true.

It can’t be forgotten.

“Hey, Sora,” she called. He was already in the pod. “The fragments of your memory are sinking into the darkness in your heart, and one by one, they become unfindable. But Sora, there’s someone irreplaceable that you made an important promise to.” The pod door started to close. “That’s your light—the light in the darkness. If you remember that person, all the memories that sank into darkness will come back,” she told Sora, who was dozing off, and she smiled.

“Look, that keepsake. I changed its shape with my power, but—if you remember that person, it will go back to how it used to be, you see?”

Sora’s probably already dreaming—

But Naminé kept talking.

“See, your memories have come back. It’s okay. You’ll forget me, but—we have a promise, so you’ll come back. That promise will be the light that connects us, someday. So even if you forget me now, there’s no way it will disappear. Because the memories won’t disappear—”

And then Sora was sleeping—and he woke up.

xxx

By the sea, Xion picked up a small shell.

“There’s no one here today, either…”

On the beach with no one on it—Destiny Islands—nothing but the sound of waves could be heard.

The setting sun painted the sea red.

Just at this moment, Xion looked at the tip of the small island, where the girl had sat.

“…Maybe she cheered up…”

Xion didn’t know that the girl wouldn’t be coming to the island again.

xxx

Continue to Chapter 6: Reunion

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